Somewhere, possibly here in the comments, someone referred to Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock as “we failed to die of future shock.”
I read the book when I was fourteen and last re-read it in my late twenties. We’ve all passed a lot of water since then. So I’m not going to claim I have a perfect recollection, but I don’t even remember his predicting social disintegration. Just that some people would get profoundly uncomfortable and maybe be unable to cope with societal change.
I also do know it’s popular, particularly on the right to make fun of or talk about the book being discredited.
I neither know nor care if some of his examples were wrong, or if he had the wrong reasons to reach his conclusion. But I’ll go bail for the principle that he expostulated: that as change accelerates any number of people become unable to cope with it.
In fact, I’ll plump down for a principle he didn’t propound: given a sufficiently fast change in how we live, what works and how things are done — every day things that affect the daily lives of every day people — a large enough number of people are unable to cope and retreat into strange fantasies and run around like demented idiots. Or sit down and do nothing at all.
Look, he didn’t use this as an example, (unless my memory is worse than I think) but he could have: before the 20th century, the time that “how things are done” in every day life mostly involved a culture getting overpowered/destroyed by another culture, usually through losing a war. And when that happened, even though it normally happened over some years, the wheels just came off. As in late-stage soviet empire, the men became drunkards, the women became whores, and no one had babies. (Oh, wait, if you make drunkards into drug addicts that takes care of most of Europe these days.)
Vae Victis seems to apply to a culture that is overpowered and forced to change so fast that something internal breaks. You see it throughout history.
We’ll leave aside for the moment that we’re attempting to do this to ourselves via SJW invasion of the culture snatchers: devaluing everything that works in our culture and changing “who things our done” every day. That honestly might be a symptom, an attempt to cope.
We’ll just go into how fast things change these days.
Look, just in the way things are done, on the “every day I do this” thirty years ago everyone who was anyone was tethered to a pager. Now pagers are limited to very few professions and usually only at work. (Doctors, some chemists, probably — though I don’t know that — some construction sites.) If they don’t want you distracted by a cell phone, they’ll give you a pager.
Twenty years ago, being hip and with it, Dan and I had our weekends in strange cities down to a routine. Find phone books, determine places to visit. Print mapquest from hotel. So easy, so convenient. Stop laughing.
Nowadays we’re dinosaurs because we still use a GPS (being somewhat deaf, most cell phone GPSs are too quiet for me.)
Organizers, brilliantly spoofed by Terry Pratchett, came and went so fast my kids had no idea what he was talking about.
But what you have to remember is that what affects the texture of every day life also affects professions, ways to make money, ways to make a career, ways to establish yourself in the world.
Consider the man who was perfecting a new medium on which to imprint/sell songs, when everyone decided to just use digital files via the internet.
For that matter, one of the places I worked at they were working on developing entirely artificial (not derived from wood pulp) and cheap paper. Thirty years ago it was a massive project. Now… well… I don’t know.
The thought that originated this post was political. But before that I’d been noddling with a few friends the idea of something called “Laid off Middle Aged Man Syndrome.” Man because women usually don’t define themselves by their profession. Though now and here some do, and I should know because I realized I lost a year to the Syndrome, and have only recently — since realizing it — started fighting back.
I’m sure you’ve seen it, as I have. Someone gets laid off, and even though they had gotten to the point that they hated their job, and they have abilities that allow them to make money, even if they had sort of kind of seen it coming, suddenly they seem incapable to cope. You could say it’s depression, except most of the time it’s not. It’s more like confusion, disorganization and inability to stick to anything, interspersed with several long periods of staring at the wall.
You might have seen people go through the same when their marriage breaks unexpectedly.
Some people in that situation do fall and can’t get up again. It’s easy to happen. You get so tired of not being able to pull up, you let yourself go. You go under for the third time.
It’s puzzling because many times it’s patently obvious it’s not grief at the loss of the job, or the marriage, or whatever. And trying to treat it as though it were, trying to tell the person — or yourself. Trust me, I KNOW — to just let go, and that you lost no great thing, or to stop repining, will do exactly nothing, because that’s not the cause. So trying to treat that is kind of sideways and besides the point.
Sure, applying boot to bottom and forcing yourself to do some of these other projects (just write already!) works, to an extent, but only to the extent that antibiotics work on a virus. They don’t, but they might prevent secondary infections.
Took me a while, and frankly examining people who weren’t me (as most people insist on not being, inexplicably) to understand what was at work was neither grief nor depression.
Instead it was a sort of uber- confusion. We could call it future shock, but it’s more “loss of future shock.”
It’s not that these people have no future. Often they are highly talented/trained professionals and even if their profession vanishes, they have other things they can do.
It’s that the future they subconsciously expected has been yanked away. And that’s a shock.
Look, we humans are weird critters. Yes, I know we all live in the present. But we don’t. Without memories and anticipation/planning, most people are utterly lost.
Rapid technological and social change yanks that way. Your profession or your family changing very quickly leaves you quite literally in shock.
And if you don’t identify what’s going on, you’re not going to react rationally to the change. It stands to reason. If you can’t fully accept it and process it, it leaves you standing there going “What now?” Only all this is taking place at a subconscious level so you get the additional fun of not having any clue why your get up and go got up and went.
The funny thing is that this doesn’t affect only individuals. It is the only explanation I’ve found for the utter insanity that is current publishing. Publisher’s Weekly — variations on whistling past the graveyard — keeps telling them ebooks will go away really soon and engaging in lies, damn lies and statistics to prove it. They can’t possibly believe it. They can’t. i know some of these people. Also they don’t really act as if they believe it. But they also don’t act as if they disbelieve it. That last would involve starting to cozy up to the more successful indie authors and presses and going “how do you do it?”
Instead, they’re in the fetal position, curled up under the table, with their hands over their ears. Possibly rocking.
Well, because the future the entire industry expected, and what they saw coming is gone. It’s never coming back. And what’s here is so completely different, they’re shocked. Dazed, bewildered.
Victor Davis Hanson wrote on the next-level Trump derangement syndrome, which to be honest is much worse than Reagan derangement syndrome and Bush derangement syndrome (the last transforming someone who self identifies as a Christian Socialist into Bushhitler, so Trump derangement syndrome is a doozie.)
And while reading it suddenly everything fell into place, from how completely insane the “resistance” that resists nothing, and whom no one is trying to suppress is, to the people on the right (Pierre Delecto, we hardly knew you and I’m no longer sure that 2012 wasn’t the best possible outcome in the best of all possible worlds) who have lost their minds and think that one of the outright communists campaigning for the democrats is preferable to Trump, to the house trying to impeach a president for reasons to be discovered later, as soon as they find a good enough fishing hole, to–
Suddenly I realized all these people are suffering from a collective version of laid off middle aged man syndrome.
See, most of these people are my age or older. And when I was a kid we all knew what the future was: it was some form of central government. We were just fighting over how intrusive it would be.
Nixon, children, thought that wage and price controls were reasonable.
Sure, Reagan came along and upended all that nonsense. Or most of it.
But the thing is our intelligentsia, our … culture manufacturers never believe it. It was a fluke. It only worked because of luck, or exceptional agricultural years or it was the result of Jimmy Carter’s exceptionally hard work, or…
And they suppressed it, anyway. The prosperous 80s became the decade of greed. And sure, we could ditch all the socialism stuff, but then we were just greedy and soulless, and man, it was a good thing Gorbachev ended the cold war, or we’d have blown sky high. (And no, I’m not joking. They convinced themselves of that.)
None of the presidents till Obama challenged that. George Bush (either) was truly indistinguishable from Clinton in most ways when it came to economics.
Obama challenged it because he was a true believer in the narrative that the intelligentsia had created to discredit Reagan.
He believed ALL THIS. He really, really, really believed all this. He said he wanted to be the anti-Reagan. And he almost managed it, even if resurrecting the Soviet Union was really hard. Jimmy Carter finally got his second (and third) term which all the left had been telling everyone would have been utopia.
And it stank. It stank on ice. Their losing control of the media didn’t help, but I’m not even sure the media could ever have hid the stink. Even the WSJ jumped in on the Summer of Recovery canard, but it quickly became a joke on the street.
Then people elected Trump. Who did all the things the intelligentsia had been telling itself for decades don’t work, all the things that contradict their lovely theories.
And … they’re working.
They’re in shock. Someone moved their cheese. The future they envisioned is gone. It might never come back (if we’re lucky.)
… and so they’re losing their minds.
Don’t let their insanity scare you or convince you they’re winning. Sure, they’re doing a lot of things. That’s because they feel they must do something. The fact that it’s all irrational is not lost on them and it’s driving them crazier.
Don’t you lose your head. Be not afraid. Build under, build over, build around, because some things will eventually collapse. But this is not the beginning of the end. This isn’t — even — the end of the beginning.
This is the day the Lord has made and it is glorious in His sight.